I’m back to bring you Steve’s Best Songs 2013, numbers 6-10. If part 1 was all about the groove, the funk, the shaking of the booty, then part 2 is more about about creating an evocative mood. It’s the down-tempo portion of the program. So, transitioning from the previous JT slow-jam, I thought I’d move the action from the dance floor to the bedroom.
I first discovered Rhye earlier this year when I heard their debut album, Woman, being reviewed on the Sound Opinions podcast. I was captivated by the spare, sexy grooves, and the album’s gorgeous vocals. It sounded like the closest thing to Sade that I’ve heard since, well, Sade. The main difference being that the lead singer is male. It’s truly a fireplace album, evocative and moody. If you like Sade, you should love this one.
6. Rhye – Last Dance (Woman)
Now it’s the early morning and you are in a post-coital haze, but not exactly awake yet. The dreams float through your blissed-out (washed out?) brain like stuffed animals on a conveyor belt. It All Feels Right, is the soundtrack to these dreams.
There is so much terrible electronic pop out there today that to find a true gem takes a lot of patience. Washed Out is able to find that subtle balance of psychedelia, song craft, hazy vocals and hypnotic keyboard swells. I was a big fan of the first Washed Out album in 2011 and I’m an even bigger fan of their second, Paracosm.
Here’s a cool video of them performing it on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic.
7. Washed Out – It All Feels Right (Paracosm)
I wish I could say that I organized all these songs to correlate with the time of the day, going from late night to late afternoon, but I’m afraid that kind of pre-planning is out of my pay range. I could fake it, but that sounds like a lot of work….
8. Caveman – In the City (Caveman)
It is a seamless transition to go from Washed Out to Caveman as they both share a love for sweeping keyboard swells and orchestral pop. I would say that Caveman is what you would get if you crossed Washed Out with The Shins. Which I guess is a little what the James Mercer/Danger Mouse collaboration, Broken Bells is all about. But I would say that Broken Bells is a bit more uptempo than Caveman. The guitar is a bit more upfront, and I get a feeling the band are big fans of ELO.
9. Daughter – Winter (If You Leave)
I discovered Daughter, like I often do most new artists, via a music podcast. It could have been one of my many “Song of the Day” podcasts, which I have automatically download to my iTunes, and then I copy them (literally hundreds) onto an SD card which I can play in my car. When a song particularly catches my ear, I pull out my phone, take a picture of the artist/song readout on the dashboard, and revisit the tune later. I do this while at red lights and stop signs, don’t worry.
At the end of the year I look at all the 4 and 5 star SotD (Song of the Day) picks and many of them get added to lists like this one.
This one liner from AllMusic.com is a good description of Daughter: “This London trio crafts moody, electronic-tinged folk that evokes the xx and Cat Power.” It’s definitely more XX than Cat Power, but I like it even more than XX, as the instrumentation is more full, with some great drumming and guitar lines that remind me of The Cure.
10. Neko Case – Night Still Comes (The Worse Things Get….)
Neko Case continues to release great album after great album. And her latest might be her best yet. The second song on the new album, Night Still Comes, has been my ear worm song of the morning at least four times this month. I wake up in the middle of the night with the lyric, “You never held it at the right angle” emblazoned on my brain. I have no idea why, but I think it’s because not only is it an evocative line (it could be aimed at a former lover, or, perhaps, aimed at herself) but Neko’s voice is so raw (not gritty, more vulnerable) and pure that you can’t help but want to be her best friend.
This is one of the few songs on my list that comes on an album where pretty much every song is a complete gem. I won’t say favorite album (not just yet – most of my listening has been to singles this year), but it would be in the top five for sure.